Thousands upon thousands of hours is what it takes to learn a language. Time spent with people, time spent listening, time spent looking clueless, sounding funny, and saying the wrong thing, time spent practicing, time spent organizing recordings, time spent with friends, time spent with different classes of people, time spent with different generations of people, time spent in awkwardness, time spent in discouragment, time spent amazed that you managed to say something right, time spent being encouraged by someone from another culture speaking a different language, and I’m sure that I could go on. These are all essential parts of learning a new language and culture.
The point of all of this is that learning language and culture takes time. There’s just no getting around it. You don’t wake up one morning speaking Spanish (or any other language for that matter). It takes lot’s of failure, practice, and repitition to gain ground. We’ve now been here in Paraguay for just under a year. When I first came, I couldn’t say anything! One of the first weeks I was here I stared at a tree for about five minutes and listed off all of the nouns associated with a tree, “branches, leaves, roots, sticks, bark, tall, canopy, trunk, etc.” I thought to myself, “That’s just a tree! How will I ever learn this language?!” I shared that story with one of my closest friends here on the field. He’s one of the most determined “stick to it” guys I know. He just finished language study around a year before our arrival. This is what he said in response to my “tree dilema”, “How do you eat an elephant? Just one bite at a time. Just start with that foot and only eat the toes!” That was encouraging to look at it that way. But now, we’re getting there. We can use full sentences, we can talk about weather, sports, and what we did last night/this week, or what we will do tomorrow. We can ask someone what they’re going to do and what they typically do for fun, etc. It’s a blast having this opportunity to learn along side other people who see the world in a completely different way. Not to mention how cool it is when you’re just out with people and you realize that you’re understanding everything your friends are saying!
I guess what I’m saying is that we’re pretty excited to be doing what we’re doing. There are times that we look at the last year and think, “Wow, this has been one of the hardest things we’ve ever done.” And yet we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Why? Because people matter. God loves people, and has allowed us the privelidge of joining in on what He’s doing around the world. That’s cool stuff, no matter where you’re from! So even though we have our “days” where we can’t say anything right, or even though it’s hard, little by little, we’re getting there!
P.S. Would you continue praying that we would be diligent, faithful, and willing to do the hard things to learn language?